South Scotland

Battle to stop south of Scotland black grouse decline begins

Black grouse Image copyright Thinkstock

A new conservation plan hopes to reverse the decline of black grouse numbers in southern Scotland.

It was launched by Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing at the Scottish Game Fair in Perthshire.

Numbers have fallen by 49% in south west Scotland and 69% in south east Scotland over the 10 years between 1995 and 2005.

The plan hopes to protect "core populations" before trying to increase numbers in other areas.

"Black grouse are among Scotland's most iconic and impressive species but I am aware numbers in southern Scotland have fallen in recent decades," said Mr Ewing.

"To halt this decline, it is therefore vital that we work together to take the right conservation action in the right places.

"That is what this plan aims to do."

This strategic plan provides an important platform for all parties to deliver black grouse conservation objectives in southern Scotland

Dr Philip Warren, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust
Image copyright Thinkstock

He said collaboration across many sectors could help to "conserve this magnificent woodland bird".

"I am very pleased to launch this plan and that the Scottish government is able to support it through the Scottish Rural Development Programme," he added.

The plan was funded by project partners Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the Lammermuirs Moorland Group, Scottish Borders Council and RSPB Scotland.

It outlines a series of priority actions including:

  • in the short-term, increase breeding productivity and over-winter survival of black grouse in the Tweedsmuir and Moorfoot Hills and the Galloway Forest Park, to provide "recruits" to recolonise neighbouring areas
  • in the medium term, implement immediate conservation measures to safeguard remnant black grouse populations in the Muirkirk Hills, East Galloway and the Lowther Hills
  • also in the medium term, promote range recolonisation in the Lammermuir and Pentland Hills from the Moorfoots
  • in the long term, restore and enhance connectivity between Langholm and the Tweedsmuir Hills
  • also in the longer term, restore functional habitat links and connectivity between Galloway Forest Park southwards to Cairnmore

Dr Philip Warren, of the GWCT and author of the plan, said: "This strategic plan provides an important platform for all parties to deliver black grouse conservation objectives in southern Scotland.

"In the short term we need to target resources to secure remaining populations whilst in the longer term putting in place a network of habitat corridors to enhance connectivity and facilitate future range colonisation."

Dr Sue Haysom of SNH said it wanted to ensure future generations could "enjoy the sight of this species displaying in all its glory."

Black grouse are "red listed" as a species of high conservation concern, and were a "priority species" of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

Two thirds of the remaining black grouse in the UK are now found in Scotland, with a "stable population" in the Scottish Highlands.

Southern Scotland, the area south of Glasgow, Edinburgh and the central belt, has been identified as a high priority for conservation action for the species.

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